Taking Great Portraits and Vacation Photos

My favourite portraits of anyone are usually ones taken when travelling. After all, that’s when you’re really well and truly relaxed – and maybe actually more willing than usual to have your picture taken. My favourite shots of myself are pretty much all from our travels.

Taking great portraits, canonblogtography

Taken with our old Canon Rebel – Cuba, 2010

Working with Canon over the past few months, I’ve been so lucky to not only work with Canon’s professional team, but also professional photographers they’ve arranged to help show us the ropes. Toronto Star photojournalist Steve Russell was the first to point out that I wasn’t actually holding my camera correctly! I also really enjoyed his tutorial about using the rule of thirds and finding contrasting colour while exploring the Distillery District. Pairing that with our first session with Canon and learning about shutter speed and aperture, I can honestly admit that I more often than not am using our awesome Canon EOS Rebel T5i with manual settings.

Putting portrait photography into action takes into consideration all of our lessons so far, and we were so lucky to learn a few more tricks from professional photographer Steve Carty, and he shared some of his tips for taking great portraits:

steve carty, taking great portraits

Photographer Steve Carty – taken by me 🙂

Aspect Ratio-
This is something that seems so obvious, and yet I had never considered it before. You know when you’re selecting a photograph to be your social media profile pic and when you go to size it out it never seems quite right? That’s because you shot it in the wrong aspect ration. 1:1 aspect ratio (ie. square) is perfect for your profile pics, and if you shoot it that way you won’t run into any weird cropping issues when it comes time to upload it. With the T5i I can select to shoot in 1:1 aspect ratio on the camera. For our purposes, for when we actually frame our shots, we shoot in 4:3, which good for 4×6 and 8×12 prints and frames.

While it’s ideal to shoot using the rule of thirds for good framing, it’s nice to know you can always crop after the fact for your ideal shot. I tend to rely on cropping pretty heavily so it’s nice I can do it right on the camera, and I know I’d save myself a lot of time photo editing.

Low Light and Night Settings-
Canon cameras have a number of settings that allow you to shoot in less-than-ideal (or perhaps ideal depending on the look you’re going for) lighting situations. There’s a Night Portrait Mode that slows down the shutter speed to keep more light in (a tripod is good here to cut out any wobble) and also a Night Scene Mode that takes four shots in quick succession, and then superimposes them together to make one great shot. Candlelight mode allows the warmth of the candle’s light illuminate the shot without the flash coming on to blow things out, and the Multi Shot Noise Reduction helps eliminate that grainy look that sometimes permeate lowly lit photography.

Using Creative Filters-
I do like my Instagram, but what I didn’t realize is that the Canon cameras also have a whack of funky filters installed in the camera to play around with. You can either add them after the fact, or in Creative Auto you have the Extra Effect Shot, that actually takes two photos when you’re using a creative filter – it saves the filter shot, as well as one with no filter in case it’s not quite what you’re after.

Upgrading Lenses-
This was a tough one for me to wrap my head around – I tend to think a lens is a lens is a lens. But we got to play with some upgrades, and I will say I was totally surprised, and pretty much sold on the idea of a new lens. Fast(er) aperture lenses seem to keep your subject in focus, helping to blur the backgrounds. I was shocked at how light the EF 50mm f/1.8 lens was. It’s $129.99, but totally lightened my camera and the shots it takes are noticeably sharper. I took the shot of Steve with the $1749.99 EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. While a lens like that is totally not in our budget, if I was frequently taking portraits for work I’d definitely look into investing in one – taking this shot was effortless and there was little to no light and lots of other stuff going on in the studio.

Thanks to our new camera and my newfound skills, we’ve managed to take some amazing shots of the kids that really bring to life the past few months. The temperature is dropping here in Toronto, but a look at these portraits we took of the kids this summer just brings us right back to sunny days at the park.

taking great portraits, canon

Taken with our Canon EOS Rebel T5i – Summer, 2013

taking great portraits, canon

Taken with our Canon EOS Rebel T5i – Summer, 2013

*The #CanonBlogtography program is sponsored by Canon, but all views expressed are my own*

6 Responses to Taking Great Portraits and Vacation Photos

  1. Great tips! I especially love the photos at the end – proof is in the pudding!

  2. Katie at #

    Wow, the photos of the kids at the end are amazing. I’m still rocking a t1i and totally need an upgrade!

  3. LOVE the pic of your daughter on the swing!

  4. Jenna at #

    Bookmarking this for later because I recently upgraded my camera and am still learning how to get the most out of it.

  5. So much more success in photography comes from getting to know your equipment!

  6. Allison at #

    I am so glad that today’s cameras do most of the heavy lifting for less-skilled photographers like me. I love having editing and effects features right on the camera.

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